Around 1,200 pupils and teachers at Cockburn School, in Beeston, released as many red balloons in memory of former pupil Kyle Asquith, who tragically died from a brain haemorrhage two years ago aged just 15.
The school invited his former classmates, his parents, Tracy and Alex, and his grandparents to witness a day of celebration, just hours after the family had for the first time met Raymond Tait whose life was saved by the transplant of Kyle’s kidney and pancreas in 2013.
Mr Tait, 39, from Dundee, who has a son the same age as Kyle, accompanied the Asquith family to Cockburn in a bid to raise awareness of the impact of Kyle’s donation. The teenager’s organs have saved five lives.
Arm in arm Tracy and Alex, who was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Kyle Arsenal Asquith’ in memory of the football fan, stood aside Mr Tait during the poignant balloon release.
Tracy, 41, said: “Just to know these people who Kyle has helped are doing well is a comfort – Kyle’s still out there living on in others.
“Meeting Ray was funny, like meeting a family member for the first time.”
Mr Tait, a father of four, was diagnosed as diabetic when he was seven-years-old. The condition resulted in his kidneys failing when he was aged 32, prompting four years of draining dialysis as he waited for a transplant.
“For me, if I hadn’t have had that transplant I wouldn’t be here. I got those organs, and I’m here because of that – I’m here because of Kyle,” he said. “Today shows how close to everybody’s hearts he is and always will be through the school.”
Organ donations are anonymous, so Mr Tait’s meeting with the Asquiths is unusual. To mark the first anniversary of his transplant last year he wrote a poem called ‘The Gift of Life’ which was published online and eventually came to the attention of Tracy last Christmas. The pair spoke on Facebook and Mr Tait agreed to attend the school for the annual graduation ceremony of Cockburn’s final year pupils.
The school’s support for the family led to the creation of the Kyle Asquith Foundation – www.justgiving.com/kyle-asquith – last year, which has so far raised around £20,000 for the NHS Blood and Transplant Trust Fund and other local causes. Cockburn also named an award after Kyle for outstanding final year pupils, which was handed out for the second time today.
Angus Smith, assistant headteacher at Cockburn, said: “The current year seven and eight weren’t here when Kyle was and as the years go on we want to make sure the foundation is still going strong so that everyone can take ownership of it.”
Kyle, an aspiring mechanic, had returned home from a Young Firefighters course at Gipton Fire Station in March 2013. Having earlier complained of a headache and visited a GP, he collapsed at home and died of a brain haemorrhage.
Among a group of around a dozen of Kyle’s friends to attend the school’s event, Jennifer Marshall, 17, from Beeston, said: “I think he would laugh at us for being so soppy. He was always joking and always smiling.”
Aida Fofana, 17, from Middleton, added: “It’s a tragedy but he’s saved five lives – it’s pretty amazing.”
More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need a transplant and of these, three a day will die waiting.
In support of organ donation, the YEP and YP can reveal that they will be backing the new Yorkshire-wide ‘Be A Hero’ campaign by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust from next week to encourage more residents to sign the donor register. Visit www.leedsth.nhs.uk/be-a-hero.